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Say 'Va Bene!' to 'Bleu!' at Jacob's Pillow

By Rebecca Dravis
iBerkshires Staff

Editor's Note: This is a second installment of The Mom Review, a summerlong series of reviews of family-friendly theater, dance, art exhibits, etc., by iBerkshires Community Editor Rebecca Dravis and her 8-year-old daughter, Noelle, who hope to give you some ideas for summer family fun.

I've never seen two-dozen young children sit so quietly for 45 minutes.

That's one takeaway from the magical show "Bleu!" that Noelle and I went to see at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, where it is playing for this weekend only.

"Bleu!" is presented by the Italian theater company Compagnia TPO, whose website bills itself as "interactive theater for children." At the opening show on Wednesday, July 2, it was indeed theater in that it clearly told a story. But unlike the theatrical stories most children are used to hearing, this one was told through music and movement, not words.

"Bleu!" narrates the meeting of two characters: a sailor and a magical and mysterious being who is a sea nymph. From the company's website: "It all starts when "She" drops a pearl into the sea so that "He" can find it. The sailor will have to undertake an adventurous journey, plowing the sea waters and diving to the lowest abysses, transforming the story into an active discovery and search for knowledge."

But here's the cool part: The stage is a large "dance carpet" onto which images are projected. Noelle was familiar with the concept of the electronic, interactive dance floor from visiting a mall in New Jersey with a similar feature, but I have never seen one around the Berkshires. So she was eager to try this one out out — and she got her wish. For "Bleu!" is highly interactive, with the two dancers inviting children on stage in small groups throughout the show to interact with themselves and the floor.

And here's the even cooler part: With the exception of a few whispers between the dancers and the children — who ranged in age from around 4 or 5 to 8 or 9 years old — the children were able to figure it out. Intuitively, Noelle knew that when the star she was standing on started to move, she should chase it around. The children who rode in the "boat" seemed to know to line up and "ride" it around.

I'm not a child psychologist or a teacher, who may witness children's amazing fearlessness and intuition on a more regular basis. I'm just a mom who thought it was really neat that these kids participated in the show in a fun and meaningful way with little guidance from a grownup. I repeat: There was little guidance from a grownup. What a novel idea, in this helicopter-parenting age we live in!

From a technical perspective, the set was beautiful, the music lovely, the dancers talented. I was riveted for the entire 45 minutes, despite being soaked from dashing to the Doris Duke Theatre in a downpour and thunderstorm. Or maybe it was BECAUSE I was soaked: I felt right at home in the underwater setting. I bet adults and kids over the age of 4 or 5 will feel the same way, even on a sunny day.

Now for Noelle: The stage was really cool, the way you stepped on stuff and it moved. I liked how they beamed the light on the gauzy curtains on the stage and you could see shapes, like bubbles. The music really went with the show. I liked how the dancers were so flexible and rolled around. It was like rhythmic gymnastics. I would go see it again.

"Bleu!" continues Thursday and Friday, July 3 and 4, at 4:14 and 8:15 p.m.; Saturday, July 5, at 11:15 a.m. and 3:15 and 8:15 p.m.; and Sunday at 11:15 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. General admission tickets for adults are $28 with youth tickets $10. For more information, visit jacobspillow.org.

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